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Jubilee’s ‘generational change’ will entrench status quo

Saturday December 29 2012


Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, the leaders who now lead the Jubilee coalition, have been struggling for some time to find a message that will resonate with Kenyans.

They still have not been able to find one.

Their latest effort promotes the notion of change via a shift in generational leadership, which is a more interesting theme than the others they have tried to float.

However, in the hands of the Jubilee leaders, this new slogan too will soon bite the dust, since Kenyans know that these leaders have always fought against change!

Their history shows that their goal is to entrench the status quo.

While so many courageously fought against dictatorship and inequity, they propped up a wretched system from which they profited handsomely at the expense of ordinary Kenyans.


Before this generational change slogan was deployed by Jubilee, there were a number of others they discarded because they found no traction with Kenyans.

“Anyone But Raila” for President fizzled since Kenyans rejected the notion that that they would support candidates whose platform centred on uniting against one opponent – an opponent who since before the 2007 election has been consistently ranked Kenya’s most popular leader.

The Anyone But Raila campaign in fact raised Prime Minister’s Raila Odinga’s stature.

Another big flop was these two leaders’ assertion that the next election was a referendum on the ICC.

That was repudiated fast, when they realised it was further focusing Kenyans’ minds on the ICC cases against them! In any event, Kenyans want to know what their next president will do to improve their lives, not his view of the ICC.

On the surface, their current slogan of “generational change” is more credible, but it becomes laughable in the hands of the high priests of the status quo.

These leaders fought tooth and nail against the new Constitution, and after its passage deployed their power and influence on derailing its implementation, especially those aspects dealing with Devolution.

Kenyans know that the Jubilee leaders represent the old order. This order is dominated by a select elite encompassing the super-rich, who would continue under Jubilee to monopolise wealth and power, as they have for the last 50 years.

The vast majority of Kenyans are determined to vote in a new, more inclusive and equitable order, and they know that Jubilee’s “generational change” message is a smokescreen for entrenching the rule of the old guard.

But let’s face it: the Jubilee leaders are not quite spring chickens! Their ages total around a full century. They have also held powerful positions for the last 15 years, and yet have not been able to tell us what changes they fought for in that long period.

One just needs to look at what the PM had achieved by the time he was 50 to realize that the Jubilee leaders are actually past their prime – while Raila is still very much in his!

In any event, it is absurd to think that age rather than a candidate’s vision and record of implementation will determine how Kenyans vote.

All three of our presidents – Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki - were much older when in office than the PM is. Mr Kibaki was elected at the age of 72,rebuilt the economy, and campaigned tirelessly for the new Constitution when he was nearly 80!

The passage of that Constitution was a truly cross generational exercise: mature leaders fighting for a new order that promises a much better Kenya for the youth - while these younger leaders fought against giving our youth a better deal.

Generational change is vital and inevitable. But the success of that change is measured not by the age of the leaders but by the positive impact their policies will have on the upcoming generations.

There are some younger presidential contenders outside CORD who could contend they stand for change –Peter Kenneth, Martha Karua, Prof James ole Kiyaipi, to name three–but they have been unable so far to articulate a vision for Kenya that would lift the level of their support to within earshot of State House.

Let me tackle another important element of this deeply flawed “age” debate. The Prime Minster is in his 60s, but numerous independent commentators have cited his prodigious energy. I am regularly a witness to it as we are team mates on Bunge FC (where I lead the strike force!).

But even more important than physical energy is the intellectual capacity and ideas that pour out from the Prime Minister reveals as he constantly comes up with ideas to make Kenya a better place for all of us.

But he also values immensely youthful talent in his search for change – his team includes many of us still in our thirties. I do find it strange when leaders call themselves “young” when they are about half a century old! International protocol limits that appellation to those under 35.

Kenyans want change – change that will improve their lives, rather than that which will benefit primarily those who have already accumulated fortunes. Our people know that this is what this election is all about.

They also know that the most vital criteria for assessing any presidential candidate is his or her record for fighting for the rights of all citizens, and a demonstrated ability to implement change against powerful vested interests.

They also want a president with high integrity, one whose word can be trusted. Certainly not one who can be pressured to make a decision against his wishes, and then invokes Lucifer to explain the betrayal of a legally binding pledge.

Maturity, which even the young can possess, is an indispensable quality for holding the highest office in the land.

Except for those committed to supporting their ethnic communities’ leaders, we all know that Kenyans will choose on March 4 a leader they can trust to bring about the change they desire.

Mr Namwamba is the Sports minister and MP for Budalang’i